Reviewed : Miss Peregine’s Home for Peculiar Children

I’m struggling to write a review for this book. I guess it’s because I can’t clearly decide whether I like or dislike it. One thing I’d like to say is that contrary to most expectations, THIS IS NOT A HORROR story. It’s nearer to suspense and mystery.

The book’s title gave me the impression that it’s Miss Peregrine who serves as the lead character. Surprisingly, a teenage kid named Jacob was responsible for fueling the entire story.

Jacob has been fascinated by the stories of his grandfather. His grandfather has been showing him pictures of the peculiar children and all the stories attached to it. Jacob soon developed doubts about his Grandfather’s stories. His life further became complicated when his Grandfather’s life ended in a mysterious death. Unfortunately, Jacob’s quest to find  answers made him worst in the eyes of his family. He was accussed of becoming mentally ill. In the course of his treatment, Jacob was allowed to set off to an island that his Grandfather was referring. He was bound to find Miss Peregrine and all the peculiar children that he used to see in pictures.

Plot and story wise, I’d like to give Ransom Riggs 3.5 out of 5 stars. More than the interesting storyline, I feel that it’s the suspense and mystery that drew my interest. It’s the questions that are waiting to be answered that made me held on to this book. Each chapter yielded chain reactions that created more attachment to the readers.

I’m not sure if it’s true but I read somewhere that the original plan was for Riggs to release a photo book. Since he acquired vintage photos from everywhere, he was set to showcase his collection. However, Riggs was later encouraged to write stories about each photo. Soon, Riggs was already writing a literary piece. If this is really true, I’d like to render my hats off to Riggs. He was able to weave a literary piece from pictures that don’t belong to each other.

As for character development, this is another angle that makes me undecided. I don’t have apprehensions about Jacob’s development. As more answers and mysteries are unfolded, Jacob’s character transformed and strengthened. My apprehensions lies on some issues that I wish Riggs could have explained. I was hoping that Riggs could explain the origins of each peculiar children and Miss Peregrine. How did they become peculiar? Why is it that some kids ended up peculiar in the story’s point of view?

My unresolved sentiments further intensified when I discovered the story’s ending. I felt like I was dragged in the sea of uncertainty. The ending gave me another open ended question. So what will happen next? Though after reading some interviews from Riggs, I have a feeling that the book will have a sequel.

Overall, I would give this book 3 out of 5 stars. If you prefer a lighter dose of suspense and mystery, then this book is for you.

PS I heard Tim Burton will bring this book to the big screen. 🙂

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A coming of age read from John Green

john green

After so many months, I’m finally done with my second book from John Green. I received this book as a birthday gift last December.  Back then, I was still reading another John Green, The Fault in our Stars.  If I remember it right, I started this book last February. Blame everything on my recent addiction to some Korean drama series. 😉 Reading took a step back as I always spend the entire night with my DVD marathons. Now that my supply of drama series is dwindling, I went back reading. Hence, this post finally made it.

During my first encounter with the book, I thought that Alaska was treated as a place. Turns out, Alaska is a person.  The book related the story of a group of young college students in Culver Creek. The lead character is Miles, who was almost a loner during his high school years. (I can relate!) When he went to a college boarding school, he found himself in the group of Colonel, Takumi, Lara and Alaska. Miles’ group was responsible for tagging him as Pudge, which became his identity in the course of the story.

The story was divided to two parts, before and after. I won’t relate the dividing line between before and after. Everything evolves on Pudge’s attempts to find answers. Pudge and his group’s journey to solve a mystery led them to answers, that demanded more meaning and understanding.

The book became a recipient of the 2006 Michael Printz Award (best book written for teens). This should have been a plus factor but for some reason, I often end up rendering lesser appreciation for award winning literary works. In this case, allow me to discuss my personal view.

If the originality and novelty of the story will be graded, I’ll give John Green 3 out of 5 stars. For me, Looking for Alaska relates a typical coming-of-age story. The story reminded me of movies such as St. Elmo’s Fire and With Honors. Not of similar plot, but they all carry similar a theme. The story’s structure is not really something new for me. As I see it, the events that transpired in Looking for Alaska can happen to anyone. However, John Green compensated by emphasizing his trademark of powerful words. John Green is one of the few writers who can narrate an ordinary story in an extraordinary way. Each chapter is enriched with heart-warming words that leaves readers with that rare emotional trail.

As for character development, I guess this is where John Green excelled. He created characters whom everyone can relate too. John Green can place you in the shoes of the characters, who can be your complete opposite. I was always a shy and reserved person in my schooling years so I never understood students who always engage themselves in trouble. But when Pudge, Colonel and Alaska’s dangerous escapades were presented to me, I didn’t find it disturbing and annoying. Everything appeared to me as a typical and accepted teenage-adult transition.

Overall, I would give Looking for Alaska as 4 out of 5 stars. It’s a typical story that has been empowered with compeling words and excellent character development. 

You will never look at your mom the same way again (Book Review: Please Look After Mom)

The only time we can realize the real value of a person in our life is when we finally lose them. Painful yet so true. Why do we have to endure a phase of suffering to finally reach that realization.

This is one of the greatest ironies of life exemplified by my latest read, Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin.

A few weeks ago, I was forced to utilize my vacation leave credits . Rather than forfeiture of vacation opportunities, I chose to take time off from work even though I have no errands to attend and money to spent.  😀 I don’t want to bore myself staying home. So even with a screaming empty wallet, I went malling with my friend, Anne. Whenever I’m with Anne, we never failed to drop by our favorite Fully Booked or Powerbooks. Bookstores are like a heaven of ice cream and potato chips for us.  We can waste our time in a bookstore for a day and I believe that if only salary was not an issue, we would love to work in bookstores.

Of the many books that were offered to me like candy, I decided to purchase Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin. Why this book? I also don’t know. The novel was written by a female South Korean and its setting evolved to that beautiful country that interests me over the past weeks. Incidentally, this is the first Korean literature that I was able to read.

The story started when Park So-nyo, a mother and wife, has gone missing in the company of her husband in the busy and crowded Seoul subway station. The entire book went as a recollection of the sacrifices that Park So-nyo has to silently endure as she is struggling to build a better life for her children, Hyong-Chol, Chi-hon and the youngest unnamed daughter.

Each chapter was narrated by each child and the husband who regretfully admitted that he gave nothing but a miserable life to a generously selfless wife. One chapter however provided Park So-nyo’s own account of her life that somehow gave me some confusions.

The plot of the novel may resemble the pattern of an intense Filipino or even a Korean drama series. However, Shin used an approach that made the story capture the hearts of the readers. She crafted the story in the eyes of every negligent child who never realized the greatness of their own mothers.

The novel had the power to leave trails of emotional pinches in my heart. As each child discovered the hidden sacrifices of their mother, it pained, pitied and made me think of how many more heoric Park So-nyo embraced the unfathomable sacrifices of motherhood.

Were the children successful in finding Park So-nyo and finally reuniting their family? I’ll never reveal the conclusion of the story. All I can say is that the ending provides  symbolical passages and representations that will haunt the readers.

Would I recommend the book? Shin’s work is a masterpiece. Hence, I would recommend everyone to purchase and read the book. It’s a decent literary investment that will make you never look at your mom the same way again.

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Book Mooch is an online community for exchanging books. The site allows you to give away books you no longer need in exchange for books you really want. It’s a give and receive system for book lovers. Signing up is easy, no approval or review is required. A valid email address and some of your personal information are enough.

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P.S. This is a non-sponsored post.

The Summer of Us by Holly Chamberlin: Reviewed

One of the holiday reads I bought was Holly Chamberlin’s, The Summer of Us. I bought my own copy at my favorite bargain bookstore, Book Sale for only Php 80 (around $1.60). Honestly, I don’t have high expectations with the book. I conditioned myself on this idea because I assume that bargained books are those that don’t sell and appeal readers. However, after finishing the book, I could say that the book exceeded my low expectations. I would give the book 4 out of 5 stars.

The Summer of Us is the story of three girls, Gincy, Danielle and Clare, who have extremely different personalities but ended up to be the best of friends.

Gincy is the single, career woman who grew up from poverty. I could actually relate to this side of her. We were both raised in the not so financially endowed family. Gincy and I are the type of individuals who have to climb every step of the improvement ladder. The negative side of Gincy is her brutally frank personality. She says what she wants to say without inhibitions. This in effect caused her some troubles over the two girls. Another trouble with Gincy is her reluctance over commitment to Rick, who was almost perfect except for being a a single dad.

Life is almost perfect for Danielle. She has the ideal family and the financially rewarding job which could support the wants of a typical member of the female populace. Shopping, shoes, clothes, bags, cosmetics, and all those material endowments showered the life of Danielle. Danielle’s main dilemma is finding Mr. Right. Mr. Right for Danielle however is not the ordinary fisherman, Chris, whom she loves. He has to be Jewish, well-educated and conforms to the family’s standards.

Clare is said to be the group’s blueblood. She also came a family that could provide her more than what she wants in life. Among the three girls, Clare is the only one in a relationship. To be more specific, she is engaged with an equally upper class man, Win Carrington. Ironically, Clare’s problem emerges from his Mr. Perfect fiancé. Clare is losing part of herself from her long time relationship. She was given all those reasons and signs to quit the relationship. Clare however chose to become the Denial and Martyrdom Queen.

The three girls got connected through a one big summer vacation. The three of them are strangers to each other before that vineyard vacation. They met in a bar and the twist of fate made them decide to share one vacation house. Though honestly, if I were Clare, Gincy or Danielle, I would not let myself get hitched with total strangers.

The book was almost perfect except for the following weaknesses,

1. It was made too lengthy – Though the book was a quality read, I find it too lengthy. There were some immaterial events in the novel that  added useless pages.

2. A number of unbelievable events – This could explain why I find the novel too lengthy. I find some unnecessary events in the novel. One of which is Clare’s impulse sex escapade with a guy she just met at the concert. I find Clare’s image and upbringing not likely to have sex with a guy she knew for less than a day. In the end, Clare and that guy never saw each other again. This just convinces me that such part was immaterial for the plot.

Another unnecessary part is Gincy’s problem with Mommyzilla. Gincy’s reluctance to accept the responsibility of being a stepmom to Justin is already a sufficient point of interest in the novel. And to be honest enough, Rick is not the ideal guy for a divorced mommy with a daughter. Rick’s description in the novel is not someone girls would really die for.

Clare, being a runaway bride? I would have accepted if she ended up married then months after filed for a divorce, did not come on her wedding day and called up Gincy and Danielle, or have postponed or called off the wedding before it happened. I don’t know, but I find stories of runaway brides too fictional and movie like.

On the positive side however, these are some points I appreciate on the novel.

1. Society’s definitions on successful women – The novel was able to bring out one of the painful expectations among women. The society has unfortunately defined successful women as employed, married, a wife and a mother. Why a typical, single career woman can’t be considered as a successful person as well?

2. Light and Humorous – I love reading but I don’t engaged much on those deep, analytical and serious stuff. Reading is one my favorite past time activities. Hence, when I read I look for those light, humorous but heartwarming and enlightening stories. The novel fortunately adhered to my standards. The plot maybe shallow for some but its unsaid and sad facts about being a woman is what I really appreciated. The novel was able to balance the elements of humor and learning.

3. Unrealized thoughts – Though the plot of the novel was too shallow, Chamberlin was able to unearth some realizations about being a woman, relationships and even family ties. I initially thought that having close family relationships is only prevalent among Asian communities. Clare and Danielle’s family however gave me a picture that in the Western world, family relationships are still valued.

The book may not be perfect read. However, I am still recommending it to all members of the female populace. The novel will give you some points of humor but provide you silent realizations about being a woman.

Why a Filipina is affected by Cecelia Ahern’s The Book of Tomorrow?

I am a fan of Cecelia Ahern. I started reading her books last year, starting with There’s No Place Like Here, PS I Love You, Love, Rosie and The Gift. I haven’t read her entire collections but I’m really amazed by her writing style. Ahern just know to weave sadness, happiness, grief, learning and magic in one overflowing masterpiece.

I just read her latest book in 2010, The Book of Tomorrow. I’m giving my personal review of the book and some sentiments over my nationality. Read my full review to find out how these two factors become intertwined.

The novel is about Tamara Godwin, a teenager who was once endowed with all those material wealth in life. Tamara’s secured and comfy life soon vanished when her father ends up committing suicide. Tamara never knew that her father was suffering from a financial dilemma. The death of Tamara’s father was not the limit of her misery.  In order to pay for all the debts he incurred, they have to give up their house in Dublin and other assets. Grieving and homeless, Tamara and her mom ended up moving to a far away province in Meath. Tamara and her mother moved with Arthur and Rosaleen, whom she knew as family friends.

Adjusting life away from the city, having a depressed mother who doesn’t speak and being housed with a mysterious couple led the evolution of the story. A change in Tamara’s life in Meath was further influenced with the arrival of the traveling library. A padlocked book, which happens to be a diary, came to her possession. Imagine having a diary where you could read the things that are just about to happen tomorrow. The entries in the diary, Tamara’s struggle of making her mom return to her normal life, the dark secrets kept by Rosaleen, and the nasty adventures of a curious teenager, all combined to wheel the story.

The diary was very instrumental in the novel. However, I find some lacking details over the diary. In particular, the novel did not give me sufficient justification of where did it really come from. All that was mentioned was it came from the traveling library. Why did the diary land to Tamara’s hands?  What was the magic that causes the diary to unravel the untold tomorrow?

The earlier part of the novel had a sluggish start. However, the chain of events, mysteries, revelations and all those questions left unanswered will make you become hooked over the story.

The magical element in every Ahern’s story is very evident in this piece. From the diary, to the mysterious castle and the real identity of Tamara, Rosaleen, Arthur and the people living in the house across the street, each of them has their own story to be told.

The story went almost to its near perfection except for its concluding parts. The ending piece of the novel almost resembled the plot of a typical Filipino soap opera.  Common endings of soap operas in the Philippines would reveal unknown family ties and relationships. The protagonist is the child of the antagonist. The antagonist and the protagonists are siblings. The protagonist or the antagonist was only an adopted child. The father of the protagonist and the mother of the antagonist used to be lovers. The antagonist has a hidden love to one of the family members of the protagonist. These are usual trends among Filipino soap operas.

When I found out that Tamara was the daughter of mysterious man living across the street,  Rosaleen was the daughter of a servant who fell in love with her master’s son, The master’s son was the brother of Arthur and the real father of Tamara, Arthur was the knight in shining armor of Rosaleen whom she doesn’t really love, and Jennifer (the mother of Rosaleen) has been hiding something from the real identity of Tamara; all of these outcomes made me feel like I am watching the ending of a 30-minute daily soap opera.

Unconsciously, I am comparing Ahern’s work to a typical story line of a soap opera in the Philippines. This now reminds me that I have one major concern and question to Ms. Cecelia Ahern.

Part of the story’s character line up was Tamara’s Filipino nanny named Mae. Except for the fact that Tamara remembered Mae for loving to watch those crime related shows,  no disgusting accusations were made about the Filipinos.

I hope this entry or my query would personally reach Ms. Cecelia Ahern. I also hope that she would provide an honest response. Is it really necessary to name a Filipino nanny in the novel? If I were to be asked, I think the novel could survive without making a specific mention as Tamara having a Filipino nanny. The story could evolve with Tamara having a nanny. Mae, being portrayed as a Filipino, has nothing to do or influence with the development of the story. What is really the point of having to emphasize Mae as a Filipino nanny?

Why of all nationalities in the world, Ahern chose to identify the nanny as a Filipino? What prompted her to make Tamara’s nanny as a Filipino? Did Ahern personally have a Filipino nanny? Did she somehow have the same experience with Tamara on having a Filipino nanny?

I am making these questions because I am a Filipino. I am bothered when other foreign nationalities demean us just because a number of my countrymen are forced to accept all the low skilled but decent jobs abroad.  

I know for a fact that a significant number of our labor populace is comprised by the Overseas Workers. Perhaps, a greater percentage of them work as household helpers. Being a household helper or a nanny is an occupation which other nationalities may consider as a low skilled job. I am however not ashamed of my fellow Filipinos, who are forced to accept these jobs, in order to decently live and uplift their families. What affects me is how other nationalities could belittle my fellow countrymen who have the purest intention of giving their families a better TOMORROW.

Before other nationalities and other writers would tag or impliedly label as a nation of nannies, please be fair and consider our story too.  Do you think that our Filipino overseas workers would still work abroad if they have a better life in our homeland?

I am thankful of my countrymen who were forced to become nannies because they are showing to the world the honest, dedicated and kind hearted Filipinos. I’m sure that people will agree that the best nannies and workers in the world should also possess those unadulterated traits. I am saddened over some people  who couldn’t see and appreciate the efforts and sacrifices of my hardworking countrymen.

To Ms. Ahern and all the other writers in the world, the words that your pen are producing are both constructively and destructively powerful. Given this power and freedom, please choose the constructive path.  Your Filipino audience would love you more if you would choose to uplift my countrymen who only have the purest intention of sacrificing to have their own better BOOK OF TOMORROW.

A Laugh-Out-Loud Read for the Halloween

I just finished reading Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella and if I would rate it, I would give it 5 out of 5 stars!

My friend Anne was the one who first purchased the book around December of last year. Over the holidays, Anne told me she finds the book super hilarious. This is something I never expected because I thought the book deals about some ghost story.

I bought the book with a little interest over it last month. I did not care to read it because I was engrossed reading Eat Pray Love.  But when I finished the book today,  I was a bit regretful of not prioritizing it. It was an endearing yet a hell of a laugh-out-loud work of Kinsella. If you appreciated Kinsella for her Shopaholic series, you will love her more for this book. You will realize that Sophie Kinsella is more than the goddess of the Shopaholic series.

The story’s protagonist is Lara Lington. However, I think the story evolved much on her great aunt Sadie who was a ghost. So as you can see , there’s this ghost element which makes the book fitting for a Halloween read. Sadie kept bombarding Lara to help her find her necklace. Yes, it’s only a necklace and not some unfinished business or a kept secret of  a dead person. Since Sadie is a ghost, only a limited people see and hear her. Unfortunately Lara was the only one who could both see and hear her.

The initial mission of Lara was to fulfill her promise of returning Sadie’s necklace. The book cover of my own copy provides a sneak preview of the necklace.

However, a lot of things and events came in as Lara was fulfilling her mission with Sadie. Lara was left alone by her best friend Natalie to run their newly established recruitment or headhunting company. Lara was desperate to reconcile with her boyfriend, Josh, who broke up with her for no concrete reason at all. Lara also discovers some secrets of his business tycoon uncle, Bill Lington and daughter Diamante. In the course of the necklace hunt, great aunt Sadie forces Lara to date Mr. American Frown named Ed.

Aside from the adventures and misadventures, Lara finds her way realizing the importance of family and unintentionally falling with love with Ed.

Kinsella’s Twenties Girl embodies the typical humor element in her Shopaholic series. But what I appreciate in this work is the emphasis on family relationships, women empowerment and making me believe that somewhere along the way… one would always find love. (Damn!  I’m getting so cheesy!)

This now makes me realize that these three elements are always present in Kinsella’s works. Rebecca Bloomwood of the Shopaholic series, Emma Corrigan of Can you keep a secret?, Samantha Sweeting of The Undomestic Goddess and Lexi Smart of Remember Me are all females. Kinsella’s vision of the protagonists should always be a strong, hilariously stupid but a renewed and redeemed female character in the end. Family is always part of the characters’ line up and finding “the one” is part of her sweet happy ending.

Kinsella emphasized the important role of the family in Lara Lington’s character. When everything else fails, the family is always there. Your family loves you with all your failures and wrong decisions in life. Kinsella’s depiction of the family are people who will always love the perfectly imperfect person in you.

Every woman is destined to redeem herself amidst those antagonists and failures in life. Kinsella have shown in the novel that women are capable of doing those stupid, crazy and unnecessarily nasty things. But at the end of the day, she learns from it and stands up as a more empowered person. This is what exactly happened to Lara Lington. With the help of Sadie, Lara used her failures to cross the bridge leading to success.

Every woman will have her own unique and romantic fairy tale. This is I feel an implied message that Kinsella wants to communicate to her female readers. Somewhere, in your journey, the right man will come along. When this happens, all things will suddenly fall in the right place.

The only weakness I felt in the novel was a little element of predictability when Lara discovered that her Aunt Sadie’s portrait was sold to the London Portrait Gallery. I already had a feel that Uncle Bill was the one who sold it. I also then predicted that after all, his uncle’s concept of two coins as his path to business success was a fake.  Lara’s blooming relationship with Ed was also something I already expected. Ed by the way was responsible for the title of the book.

If you are looking for some light, hilarious but romantic read, then Twenties Girl is one of the best choices. It’s a chick lit that will leave you a laugh-out-loud, touching and romantic feel at the end of an ordinary or a tiring day.